Almost a Modern PTQ Top 8 Report (ft. Legacy and Pauper Cube) – Breaking In by Andrew Quinn

Breaking In: Starting out on MTGO – A Beginner’s Guide to Pauper by Andrew Quinn


Hi guys! Today, I’m writing a report about the magic related stuffs of the weekend just gone. I’ve had a packed weekend, playing in 3 wildly different formats with not one of them being Standard! I entered the PTQ in Cardiff, being my first PTQ of the season (thanks to judging in two of them and work commitments seeing me miss the others), followed by a local legacy tournament and some SWEET cube action! I hope you enjoy reading it 🙂


Friday: The Deck

So, on Friday I travelled into Worcester to meet up with the rest of the local mtgUK players who’d be travelling with me. I’d already picked my deck and had been practising for two weeks. Whilst I thought I knew what some people were on, Joe Fletcher had apparently wowed us with a homebrew UR Faeries list which two others in the room were testing when I arrived.

The list looked really sweet, but there was no way I was going to change my mind at this time. I sat down with some members of the team and tested my Faeries, Caw-Blade and Jund matchups with some seemingly positive results, whilst also building a copy of Gifts Rock for another player (Luke Delaney) to pilot at the event. I discussed some of my card choices with the likes of Ben Heath, Joe Fletcher, Aaron Biddle, Zak Dodds and others. So, having finalised my list and finally found the 15th slot in my sideboard that I wanted, here’s the list that I stuck with and registered in the morning:

“QuadKarn.dec” by Landstar

Creatures (3):
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
1 Wurmcoil Engine

Planeswalkers (4):

Other Spells (34):
4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
4 Expedition Map
4 Explore
2 Oblivion Stone
4 Pyroclasm
4 Relic of Progenitus
4 Sylvan Scrying

Lands (19):
1 Eye of Ugin

3 Forest
3 Grove of the Burnwillows
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plane
4 Urza’s Tower

Sideboard (15):
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Combust
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Guttural Response
2 Nature’s Claim
1 Seal of Primordium
2 Spellskite
1 Whipflare
2 Wurmcoil Engine


Saturday: The Modern PTQ in Cardiff

So, I woke early Saturday morning having stayed with Joe Fletcher and Dan Stokes at their house in Malvern (much appreciated guys!) and having only gotten around about 2-3 hours sleep at best (it’s difficult to sleep on a two-seater sofa which isn’t long enough to support your legs…) and my car ride for the day arrived. We arrived at the venue and having written out my decklist from memory (oh yeah! Like a boss!), we were paired for round 1 and funnily enough, I was against a friend and local mtgUK player in round 1 (not so happy about).

Round 1 vs. Mark Biddle (Jund)

So yeah, Mark and I knew exactly what the other was on, but Mark doesn’t really play Modern. In fact, this was his first Modern tournament ever!

Game 1 was somewhat uneventful. I got full Tron down fairly early (turn 4 I believe) and I dropped down a Karn Liberated to start dominating the game. However, it wasn’t enough. Mark cast a Bloodbraid Elf and hit a Maelstrom Pulse to deal with Karn. On my next turn, I played a land and dropped my Wurmcoil Engine but once again, that wasn’t enough. A Terminate dealt with it and a Lightning Bolt cleared away the Lifelink token so I couldn’t gain any advantage from it, other than trading the deathtouch token for a rather large Tarmogoyf.

I was able to clear his board with a Pyroclasm, but from that point on, I didn’t draw a single threat. I saw no win conditions, including Expedition Map, Sylvan Scrying or Eye of Ugin despite seeing multiple cantripping artifacts. I was on about 10 life and Mark was able to pretty easily clear up from there.

I looked to my sideboard and couldn’t find much that I wanted. I swapped out two Karns and a Forest for 2 Wurmcoils and the Ghost Quarter.

In game 2, I took control of the game very quickly. A succession of Wurmcoils, Karns and such managed to dominate his threats and I cleared up fairly quickly with an Ulamog. However, at this point time was called. I wasn’t even aware that we’d been playing that slowly. I naturally asked Mark if he’d be nice enough to give me the win, but he declined, and rightfully so. We accepted it as a draw and moved on 🙂

So, not the most ideal situation after Round 1, but still not too bad.


Round 2 vs. George Dowse-Brenan (Aggro Loam)

So Game 1, I keep a sweet hand that will lead to a quick Tron assembly. He mulls to 5 on the play and leads off with 2 Gravern Cairns, so I put him on Aggro Loam. I don’t have turn 3 Tron (rather I will do on turn 4), but he has a Ghost Quarter for one of my Tron pieces. I run out a Relic of Progenitus and just keep his graveyard to a minimum, fearing the Green Source -> Loam back Ghost Quarter play. Despite that, he just didn’t draw what he needed for the rest of the game and once I assembled Tron, it was inevitable that I would find something to win the game with.

Game 2 was the exact opposte. I kept a risky hand and tried to assemble Tron, but I didn’t get down my first Tron piece until turn 4. He then Ghost Quartered it and hit it with Surgical Extraction. I did my best to stop him, by running out a Wurmcoil Engine on 6 lands, but he dispatched it very easily and once he landed Seismic Assault, he had enough gas to lock me out of the game.

Game 3, I believe we both kept 7 and had a good game of it. I don’t remember much of the lead up to this situation, but time was called on us and I was fairly sure I couldn’t win. I had a Wurmcoil Engine down and in turn 0, he played Liliana of the Veil to kill it, so I started turn 1 with 2 Wurm tokens in play, staring down 18 life. I killed Liliana with a Wurm token, knowing it would inevitably eat one of my tokens and stop me winning anyway, dropping him to 15. I also ran out an Oblivion Stone, just in case it was needed.

In turn 2, he drew a blank and passed.

In turn 3, my heart raced as I pulled Ulamog off the top of my deck. I attacked him down to 9 and cast Ulamog, Vindicating one of his lands and passed the turn.

In turn 4, all he could do was run out Thrun, the Last Troll in an attempt to block Ulamog, but with Oblivion Stone still sat on may side of the board, I killed Thrun and my tokens (Ulamog is of course indestructible) and attacked him for lethal.


Round 3 vs. Peter Battiscombe (Jund)

So I was paired against another familiar face. Local member of the Firestorm Faeries, Peter Battiscombe. We’d not played before, only ever met at Manaleak’s win a box standard tournaments, so I had no idea how good he was (although of course I assume he’s good) or what deck he was playing.

In game 1, I kept a rough hand with no Tron lands but with lots of acceleration, but never managed to find a Tron piece. I finally did on turn 4, but it was met by a mainboarded SOWING SALT! I just couldn’t believe it. Not only does this card not see a whole lot of play when it probably should do as a way to combat Tron variants, but he had a maindecked copy! After a number of comments from both of us, I miserably exiled all 4 of my Urza’s Towers and then scooped a couple of turns later.

Game 2, I brought in a number of things including my Ghost Quarter. I figured that if I held up Ghost Quarter, I can protect my Tron lands by destroying them in response to the Sowing Salt, hence not exiling the remaining copies. However, it wasn’t needed for this game. He had a fairly slow start and I had a much needed fast draw and I won in fairly short order with a flurry of massive bombs.

Game 3 was somewhat familiar… I assembled Tron fairly easily but again, saw no way of winning the game. I drew as many cards as I could, but found nothing. Meanwhile, he was quite clearly stuck on 1 red source when Sowing Salt required 2. He then found his second red and cast his Sowing Salt. But ha ha! He had fallen into my trap! I had a Ghost Quarter lined up ready to counter his Sowing Salt and another Urza’s Tower in my hand, ready to replace the one I destroy! I was going to win over his tech! But I forgot the Ghost Quarter was there… So, needless to say I tilted a bit. He had a Liliana in play on 4 counters, which he ticked up to 5. I did my best in the next turn but again, had no threats. Then, if the first LD spell wasn’t cruel enough, he hit me with a second Sowing Salt. I immediately conceded, seeing Liliana (now on 6) across from me and no Power Plants or Towers left.

So, turns out that had I not become a complete idiot for that split second, it wouldn’t have mattered. He actually had THREE Sowing Slats in his hand and had kept it without the second red source, knowing he’d probably clinch the game if he found that land and I couldn’t get Tron online too fast. So yeah, a somewhat disheartening loss but I knew I could still win out and have a shot at the top 8, so I didn’t drop, unlike a lot of my fellow mtgUK players who’d now dropped out of contention.


Round 4 vs. Cyrus Bales (RUG good stuff…?)

So, once again, another familiar face but not someone I’d ever played before. Joe had told me before I sat down for the match he was on some sort of crazy 4 colour home brew featuring the likes of Vedalken Shackles and Trinket Mage, so I had no idea what to expect really.

In game 1, he mulled to a very disappointing 5 cards with not a lot of action. I had a fast Tron but my only win condition was a single Karn. Whilst this was more than enough to end the game, it just took a while to do so. I found an Eye of Ugin and used it to search Ulamog, which was countered, then tutored again, then countered again, and finally he stuck on the third attempt and closed out the game.

For game 2, I had no idea how to side, so did my best with the information at hand. He had a much better start this time and was able to counter most of my threats, whilst landing Trinket Mage[/cad], [card]Tarmogoyfs and finally a Batterskull, which meant I didn’t last very long at all.

In game 3, we fought over some threats for a while. I baited out a counter spell on my Expedition Map and then laid down natural Tron followed by a threat of some sort. He was then able to deal with it and laid two Tarmogoyfs to try and close out the game quickly. I was on 16 and his Goyfs both had 4 power, so he attacked me down to 8. I peeled Ancient Stirrings off the top of my deck and used it to find a Relic of Progenitus, turning his Goyfs into a pair of measly little 0/1 guys. Here, I had an opportunity to Pyroclasm his 2 Goyfs as the graveyards remained empty, but I chose to tap out all of my mana for an Ulamog, which resolved and was able to block either Goyf.

Next turn, I swung in with the Ulamog and laid Urza’s Tower number 2, giving me enough mana to play Emrakul for game. Immediately following the game, both Joe Fletcher and Tom Rickarby (who’d been watching me at the end of the match) criticised me for not clearing the Goyfs when I had the opportunity. I said I didn’t see the need to do so when I couldn’t cast it and play Ulamog in the same turn, to which they simply replied, “yeah, well who ever has the opportunity to Pyroclasm 2 Goyfs at once? It would have been so sweet!” So yeah, obvious misplay by not Pyroclasming the Goyfs when I could have done 🙂


Round 5 vs. James Welsh (RG Wolf Run Snow Ramp)

I had seen James play this deck at the top tables of the London PTQ (or at least someone piloting this deck) and knew that whilst this deck wasn’t on the radar, it was certainly not to be underestimated. We were deck checked at the beginning of the round and hence had about 10 minutes to chat and share stories of the season so far and I must say, it was a pleasure to talk with you James! Having gotten our decks back and receiving no penalties, we proceed to the game.

In game 1, he accelerates pretty quickly and is able to run out Inferno Titan and Primeval Titan and there’s little I can do, seeing no removal to deal with both of them.

For game 2, he accelerates much slower than before and doesn’t hit turn 4 Titan, so my turn 4 Karn goes a long way and I don’t see much pressure beyond that.

In game 3, he fight it out for a little while. I have Karn and Wurmcoil in hand but he has a Beast Within on my 2nd  Tron piece. I have 2 Expedition Maps out, so I crack one to find that same Tron piece. He then Beast Withins again, so I crack the final Map to find my Tron piece again. I then also lay a Relic of Progenitus, so when he then tries to Eternal Witness back his Beast Within, I remove it from his graveyard and he’s left with nothing.

Some aggressive blocking and some removal spells later leaves both fields empty, but my lands are finally left untouched so I can assemble Tron! I think over my options and decide to play Karn and take away his last card in hand, which happened to be Grab the Reins, which would have won the game for him on the spot if I’d decided to go with Wurmcoil Engine instead!  From then on, Karn is able to take away any card he draws and my Wurmcoil Engine and Emrakul go to town on his life total.


Round 6 vs. Laura Dawes (Gifts Rock)

I understand Laura had been playtesting with Stuart Wright a lot, who’d won the London PTQ with this very same deck. I was in for a rough ride.

In game 1 I keep a very risky 7 which involved me having a turn 5 Ulamog but basically nothing until then… She is on the play and her turn 4 Gifts Ungiven into turn 5 Terastodon on my Tron lands won her the game instantly.

For game 2, she mulled to 5 and I kept a much faster opener, so I accelerated out of the blocks as early as possible and she couldn’t recover.

For game 3, she mulled to 5 again and was clearly not happy about it, especially being on the play for this game. I was feeling pumped at this, since I’d kept the single greatest hand I’d ever drawn with this deck. I had Urza’s Mine, Urza’s Tower, Expedition Map, Sylvan Scrying, Chromatic Star, Karn Liberated and my sideboarded Guttural Response. This hand gives me 2 ways of getting to Karn Liberated on turn 3 and meanwhile gives me access to the Guttural Response to stop her abusing Gifts Ungiven.

Laura had a turn 1 Inquistion of Kozilek to see this hand and appeared to tilt at the sight of it. Because of Map AND Scrying, she couldn’t stop the turn 3 Karn. She took away Sylvan Scrying and passed the turn. I continued with Chromatic Star and all she had on turn 2 was Noble Hierarch. I went ahead with turn 3 Karn and she peeled the Maelstrom Pulse to deal with it.

However, I immediately topdecked a second Karn to replace it. From then on, she basically drew dead. I kept using Karn until he was on 11, then used a +4 to exile Emrakul from my hand, setting up a restart next turn. By this point, she had access to 8 mana and topdecked Gifts Ungiven and played it immediately. However, I still had the Guttural Response to deal with it and she scooped.


At this point, I’m just buzzing. I’d never reached the top 8 of a PTQ before and everyone from mtgUK knew this, so they offered their congratulations that I’d gotten this far, knowing a win in the final round could very well put me in the elimination rounds. Round 7 was paired and I went over to my match.

Round 7 vs. Ian Bennet (B/W tokens)

From the pairings, I saw my opponent was at 4-2, so I asked him if he’d possibly concede the match to me, but he explained how he was the top of the 4-2 bracket and a win would keep him there and leave him in top 8 contention too. He’d gone 4-0 and missed 2 opportunities to ID into the top 8. So of course, we played it out. I was not unhappy to then find out, he was on B/W tokens, a deck I have a lot of experience playing and I knew this matchup was heavily favoured for me.

In game 1, he stifled on drawing spells for a while and by the time I had a threat on turn 4, the only creature he’d committed to the board was a Tidehollow Sculler. He hadn’t drawn another spell other than a Path to Exile, so my multiple threats made light work of his board.

For game 2, I sided in the obvious sideboard cards but in a moment of stupidity, left my enchantment removal in the sideboard thinking “what could I possibly use them on?” and drawing a blank. In about turn 2 I’d realised my mistake. In his turn 2, he Scullered me again and took a Wurmcoil Engine, leaving me with no win condition. On my next turn however, I peeled an Ancient Stirrings, finding me Wurmcoil number 2 and I played it out on turn 4. His answer was Elspeth Tirel, making 3 blockers for the Wurmcoil. I then topdecked Pyroclasm, wiping his board clear and giving me back my original Wurmcoil which I cast. He had a second Elsepth Tirel to block the Wurms, but an Ulamog off the top destroyed Elsepth and took the game in the next turn.


Top 8?

I was absolutely ecstatic. My fellow mtgUK teammates all congratulated me on my performance through the tournament and wished me luck for the pairings to be announced. Since I’d finished my match with 25 minutes to spare, I took a 10 minute walk down to Burger King to get some food and came back just in time for the Top 8 announcement. Now, apparantly, a lot of people IDed the last round and screwed up the top 8 cutoff. 3 people on 17 points topped the swiss but then 7 people (including me) were on 16, so two of us missed the cut. Since my loss and draw were so early on in the tournament, my tiebreakers were horrible and I ended up 10th.

I understand the 9th place player had IDed his way into the top 8 and hence missed out (although I don’t know if that’s true). Tbf, that just sucks. Still, I’m looking on this as a very positive record. Not only was it my first competetive tournament since Nationals, but it was my first PTQ in over a year and by best PTQ record to date! Hopefully I can take this experience and turn it into a real top 8 next season, and with any luck, a win!


Sunday: Legacy & Pauper Cube Drafting

So, after sleeping for a good 10 hours, I woke without any time left to build my Legacy deck for the day’s tournament at Manaleak. I threw all of the playable cards I wanted into a couple of deck boxes and left for the shop. I laid out my cards on the table, borrowed my dual lands for the day from Aaron and Mark Biddle and with some help from local Legacy gurus Stuart Taylor, Tom Rickarby and Aaron “Box” Harbord, I came up this brew for BUG Landstill:

BUG Landstill by Landstar

Planeswalkers (4):
4 Jace, the Mind-Sculptor

Other Spells (32):
3 Ancestral Vision
4 Brainstorm
2 Counterspell
1 Fact or Fiction
4 Force of Will
1 Ghastly Demise
1 Go for the Throat
2 Innocent Blood
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Life from the Loam
4 Pernicious Deed
2 Spell Pierce
3 Spell Snare

Lands (24):
1 Bayou
2 Flooded Strand
1 Forest
2 Island
3 Mishra’s Factory
4 Polluted Delta
3 Tropical Island
3 Underground Sea
2 Verdant Catacombs
3 Wasteland

Sideboard (15):
2 Blue Elemental Blast
1 Flusterstorm
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Phantasmal Image
2 Pithing Needle
2 Submerge
2 Vedalken Shackles
3 Vendilion Clique

In retrospect, the build was all over the place. I’d lent out my Misty Rainforests and Thoughtseizes, so they were omitted. I went 0-2-2, going to time in 3 matches because I just didn’t have the pressure to win games fast enough. I would definitely prefer playing 4 Mishra’s Factories and possibly some sort of creature threat mainboard. I’m thinking Snapcaster Mage or Tombstalker (since Tombstalker doesn’t usually die to Pernicious Deed).

I enjoyed playing the deck though. I’d not picked up my Jaces in about a year and was glad to use them again. I may look into using this deck again, but I’ll have to put more preparation into it before doing so.

The Pauper Cube Draft

After the tournament finished, a group of us were going to try a Cube draft. Having secured a lift home, I was definitely up for that. Joe Fletcher normally supplies us his Cube, but he was at home and his cube was with him, so we couldn’t do that. So, we turned to local player Jimmy Tao, who happened to own a Pauper Cube, complete with some sweet Unhinged Cards! The cube is basically all commons and I’ve drafted it before with a lot of success so I was more than happy to play it again! So, we shuffled up the 300+ cards and got our Pauper Cube drafting underway! I knew what sort of deck I wanted. Grixis control with lots of burn, draw power and value creatures (Mulldrifter, Izzet Chronarch and such).

So, I take a look at the first pack and don’t see a whole lot. There wasn’t anything that was so outstanding that it made me want to play that colour, other than possibly a Deep Analysis. I ended up settling on Leonin Bola, since it’s a very powerful ard and is colourless so I’m not committed to anything just yet.

Second pick went the same way and I ended up taking Oblivion Ring. It’s powerful enough that I’d probably end up splashing it regardless of my colours. My third pick however cemented one of my colours. I saw Capsize staring at me. Anyone who’s played with this card before should know it’s one of the single greatest draft commons in the history of the game and a very easy pick, moving me into blue (now I wish I had that Deep Analysis…).

The next pack however didn’t have a single card I wanted, but 1 card that I took based on its raw power level. Sprout Swarm! The rest o the pack was very mismatched, but I did end up with a Krosan Tusker and a Yavimaya Elder, so I felt like I’d probably be in Green/Blue.

Now then, pack 2 was interesting. There was one card that stuck out a lot and that was Disturbed Burial. There are 2 cards in this cube that I can say with about 98% certainty are the strongest cards. They are Disturbed Burial and Grim Harvest. Both of these cards pretty much make you win the game when you play them right, never running out of creatures and with the right creatures, net you a ton of value without any sort of commitment to black.

So, of course I took it, knowing I had Krosan Tusker and Yavimaya Elder already and could probably pick up some other sweet creatures to go with it. For the rest of the pack, I took a lot of powerful green cards, including a Civic Wayfinder and a 12th pick Shaper Parasite (O_o) and my deck started to shape up.

For pack 3,  opened all rubbish plus a Ray of Command which was the obvious pick. It’s a sweet card to go with my splashed Capsize. Picks 2 and 3 were somewhat uninteresting, but then in pick 4, I was passed a SWEET Unearth. This card is nearly as good as Disturbed Burial, since recurring creatures is very powerful in this format. Not only that, but moving on to pick 5, Grim Harvest was staring at me from the front of the pack!!! I couldn’t believe my luck. I snapped it straight away and my deck was basically finished.

In pick 6, I saw Ghitu Slinger. Whilst I wasn’t in red, I’d be very happy to splash him based purely on his synergy with the Raise Dead effects that I’d taken and then rounded out the pack with even more green cards and a sweet late pick Sakura-Tribe Elder!

Here’s the deck I ended up playing:

Creatures (10):
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Ambush Viper
1 Shaper Parasite
1 Ghitu Slinger
1 Yavimaya Elder
1 Civic Wayfinder
1 Krosan Tusker
1 Kozilek’s Predator
1 Penumbra Spider
1 Blastoderm

Other Spells (13):
1 Leonin Bola
1 Unearth
1 Rancor
1 Land Aid ‘04
1 Rampant Growth
1 Agony Warp
1 Sprout Swarm

1 Grim Harvest
1 Distrubed Burial
1 Capsize
1 Pristine Talisman
1 Elephant Ambush
1 Ray of Command

Lands (17):
1 Slippery Karst
9 Forest
3 Island
3 Swamp
1 Mountain

The deck just worked insanely well, not dropping a single game. I’d’ve preferred to have more synergy with my creature recurring cards, but the ones I did have were just sweet. I had a ton of colour fixing with Civic Wayfinder, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Krosan Tusker and Rampant Growth, which meant I was never struggling to get the lands I needed for my 3 splashed colours. I typically had people scoop either to the Capsize[card] lock or to merely having [card]Grim Harvest or Disturbed Burial, looping through my Tribe Elders to thin out my deck and draw some win conditions, followed by recurring Ghitu Slinger for game!


Final Thoughts

So there we have it, my weekend of Magic. Modern, Legacy and Pauper Cube make for one hell of a time if you enjoy playing Magic.


Getting the final points I needed for qualifying for the WMCQs!

Jimmy Tao for building such a sweet Cube and then to everyone playing for passing me the cards I wanted 😉

The mtgUK crew for all of their support and encouragement during those final rounds. Thanks to Ben Heath, Tom Rickarby, Zak Dodds, Luke Delaney, Joe Fletcher, Dan Stokes, Aaron Biddle and Mark Biddle (I bet I’ve forgotten someone…)!

HUGE Congratulations to Rob Wagner for winning the PTQ in the end!

Burger King for making sure I didn’t pass out after not eating for 24 hours and barely sleeping…


None…? (I suppose me not winning the PTQ I guess…)


Thanks for reading, and good luck to everyone in their respective WMCQs!




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